Ugandan teacher welcomes students back to class for first time in 2 years
When schools shut down in March 2020, many students instead began working
As his students returned to the classroom for the first time in nearly two years on Monday, Ugandan teacher Mudi Kangave was cautiously optimistic they would recover from their missed schooling.
"These children have learned some other activities, especially in the informal sector and [through] informal education," Kangave told As It Happens host Carol Off.
"There's some bit of maturity from what they've been through."
On Monday morning, Kangave welcomed a group of "very, very excited" students back to his classroom for the first time since March 2020, bringing to an end a prolonged pandemic closure that affected some 10 million Ugandan children and teens.
Amid the jubilant reopening, the threat of more closures continues to loom — Ugandan health authorities recently reported daily COVID-19 test positivity rates in excess of 10 per cent, up from virtually zero in December.
Working 'petty jobs' to get by
During the time away, public schools were unable to offer virtual learning, though Kangave says the Ugandan government did distribute some textbooks and ran lessons on local TV and radio stations.
During their time away from school, Kangave said, many children and young people spent the two years working to try and support their families.
"They have been selling masks on the streets, and they have been hawking yellow bananas, and they have been hawking maize," he said.
Kangave himself was in a similar situation — forced to take on new jobs at a shop and as a farmer after his teaching income was disrupted.
"Other [teachers] were also doing the petty jobs, they were driving boda bodas [bicycle or motorcycle taxis], they were doing bricklaying. Others were doing the house chores for some other people."
Kangave says that given the tumult of the last two years, funding is badly needed for more psychosocial support for teachers as they return to the classroom.
"Teachers have been hit so hard," he said.
Financial barriers to returning
The economic wallop of the pandemic continues to be keenly felt, and Kangave says not all families are able to send their children back to school yet.
That concern was echoed by Ugandan educational consultant Fagil Mandy in a recent interview with the Associated Press, who said she is worried school fees will be a major barrier.
For those students who have returned, Kangave said a curriculum has been developed to ease them back into school and make up for some of the lost time.
Accommodations have also been made for students who have gotten pregnant, he continued, so that they can continue to learn.
"Right now, for the start, they have somewhere to begin from," he said of his students.
"That's what I can say."
Written by Kate McGillivray. Interview produced by Niza Lyapa Nondo.